8 things you can do to improve your body image
Updated: Jul 13
Maybe you are reading this because you don't love your body, and you want to have a more positive body image.
The media often tells us that the way to feel better about our bodies is to change them. But that is often the opposite of what we need to do to feel better about our bodies. The more we focus on changing our bodies, the more we become consumed with thoughts about our bodies, the more our identity becomes wrapped up around our bodies and the worse we feel. I think deep down most of us know that working to will our bodies into an unrealistic size will not result in a more positive body image or more happiness.
You may disagree and say that when you do lose a few pounds, you do feel excited and feel better about your body. But the feeling don't last.
The road to a healthier body image is HARD. And it's not linear, it has a lot of ups and downs. A more positive body image doesn't happen overnight. It often goes from not hating our bodies, to tolerating them, to then accepting them, and maybe loving parts of our bodies.
And it often starts with behaviors. Behaviors and how we relate to our thoughts need to change before our feeling about our bodies do.
Below are some behaviors that can be helpful in developing a healthier body image:
Stop body checking and comparing. Body checking and comparing can reinforce negative body image thoughts. Stop checking your body in the mirror, in windows. Stop weighing yourself daily. Stop comparing your body to those of others. If you catch yourself doing these things, don't beat yourself up - just shift your attention elsewhere when you notice yourself doing these things.
Unfollow toxic social media. Unfollow any social media that makes you feel worse about your body. Research has shown that social media use can lead to unrealistic comparisons which make you feel worse about your body.
Commit to not say negative things about your body. Commit yourself to stop saying negative things about your body -- to your friends/family, and to yourself. When these thoughts come up, acknowledge them, and then choose not to engage with them and focus your attention elsewhere.
Practice self-compassion. Research has shown that practicing self-compassion when you are not happy with your body can improve body image. An example of what self-compassion can look like- instead of beating yourself up when you gain weight, wear clothes that make you feel good about yourself. You can nurture self-compassion via structured therapeutic exercises and readings and mindfulness practices.
Make a list of what your body can do for you. Make a list of all the things that your body can do for you. Remind yourself of what your body has done for you. Some ideas... it can heal a broken bone and a cut, help us digest our food, help us fight illness, carry a baby, feed a baby, enjoy a beautiful hike, allow us to cry/laugh/smile, allow us to feel things.
Upgrade your self-care. Upgrading your self-care tells you that you and your body are worth it. Perhaps this means putting on body lotion, a facial, a nice long relaxing bath.
Wear clothes that fit and make you feel good. If you have recently gained weight, wear clothes that fit you well instead of trying to squeeze into old clothes that are too tight. Wear clothes that don't restrict or cling.
Focus on other important areas of your life. The more we focus on other areas of our lives and the less we focus on our bodies and changing them, the less our worth will be wrapped up in our weight and shape, and the better we will feel about our bodies.